BY LISA FARBSTEIN
For someone who lives just 15 miles from what used to be the World Trade Center, Rockland resident/writer Diane Dimond seems to have a short memory. In a recent column, she ranted about TSA because she doesn’t like to take off her shoes at the checkpoint and because TSA dared to open her husband’s carry-on bag to take a peak at what she admittedly defined as containing “specialized” electronic equipment.
She criticized the very security measures that were designed to keep passengers safe —to help ensure that there is not another 9/11 in her back yard – in any back yard for that matter — yet at no time did she ever contact TSA to check her facts. So permit me to do the fact-checking for your readers.
Fact: TSA knows that the vast majority of passengers are not terrorists, so the agency has shifted from a one-size-fits-all approach to a risk-based approach to security. For example, intelligence tells us that passengers 12 and under and passengers 75 and older are low risk, and thus they are permitted to keep their shoes on and light outerwear jackets on. Intelligence tells us that the less we know about a passenger, the greater the risk, so TSA Pre✓™ was developed. This expedited screening program allows passengers, who provide us with some detailed personal information, to keep their shoes on, leave their jackets on, keep laptops in their carry-on and leave their clear bag of 3-ounce or smaller containers of liquids in their bags. Nobody is guaranteed expedited screening however, as a random check helps ensure security. TSA Pre✓™ also helps reduce the number of pat-downs at security checkpoints.
Fact: When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, such as specialized electronics with wires or batteries in a carry-on bag, as Diane’s husband apparently had with him, it must be resolved prior to allowing a passenger to proceed to the secure area of the airport. Why? Because terrorists don’t walk up to the checkpoint with an explosive device in plain view.
Fact: TSA hasn’t used a “wand” to detect items in several years. TSA uses a combination of either state-of-the-art advanced image technology at checkpoints or walk-through metal detectors.
Fact: Checkpoint wait times are similar to traffic on highways. The traffic is always heavier during an airport’s rush hours. Approximately 87.5 percent of passengers experience wait times less than 10 minutes and 99 percent of passengers experience wait times of less than 20 minutes.
Fact: Don’t like taking off your shoes? Several years ago, a suicide bomber on board an aircraft attempted to ignite an explosive device that he had built into his shoe. Fortunately he failed to do so. Until a manufacturer can develop checkpoint technology that can to detect those sorts of shoe devices, the shoes will need to come off.
Fact: On TSA’s need to be more consumer friendly, the agency is continually looking for ways to do exactly that. The TSA Cares toll-free Help Line was created to serve as a dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances to help prepare for the screening process prior to flying. Airports also have customer-focused Lost and Found Offices that reunite passengers with the items that they’ve left behind at checkpoints. There’s a free downloadable “myTSA app,” which provides passengers with 24/7 access to the most commonly requested TSA information on their mobile device. The app enables passengers to do a quick check on whether an item should be packed in checked or carry-on baggage and provides passenger-posted checkpoint wait times or airline delays. These are just a few initiatives that demonstrate TSA’s commitment to providing good customer service.
Fact: On Diane’s claim that snow globes are prohibited. Guess again! Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size) are permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, resealable bag, as the passenger’s other liquids, such as shampoo, toothpaste and cosmetics.
Perhaps the next time Diane and her family fly out of a New York-area airport to a fun vacation spot, they’ll look out the car window at the New York skyline minus the Twin Towers and remember some of the true facts about TSA and why it exists.
Lisa Farbstein is a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration